5 Things to Consider when Building a Custom Home

Perhaps the biggest advantage to building a custom home is that the design and construction are done to your precise specifications. Along with determining a budget, building a custom home requires considering these five factors: design, location, energy efficiency, local requirements and long-term livability. Working out these factors in advance can help ensure that the home you build is truly your dream home.


As the homeowner, you have the right to ensure that the design of your house meets the needs of your household as well as your personal preferences. However, unless you are a professional architect, contractor, designer—or some combination of the three—you should leave the specifics to the professionals. Have an architect translate your list of must-haves and wish list items into a physical design that a contractor and designer can bring into existence. Finding pre-drawn plans that fit your specifications is a less expensive alternative to hiring an architect, but the tradeoff is less flexibility for alternations.


You may have your heart set on building in a specific neighborhood. If so, ensure that the lot is large enough for the home you wish to build along with any additional structures, such as a pool, garage or outdoor patio. If you haven’t made a final determination for location, take an assessment of the way you live. Do you want to be near a downtown urban area or do you prefer the tranquility of a suburban setting? The most beautiful home in the world will never truly be a dream home if it is built in a location that doesn’t provide what you want and need.


Energy Efficiency
Features such as kitchen islands and double vanity sinks add significantly to a home’s convenience and value. However, such features should take a back seat to the building itself. Don’t skimp on features such as insulation, windows and doors. Investment in a well-designed heating, venting and air conditioning (HVAC) system, energy-efficient appliances and water-saving plumbing and fixtures is money well spent.


Local Codes, Regulations and Laws
Failure to adhere to local codes and regulations can cause your new home construction to be shut down mid-project. Educate yourself on applicable laws and any homeowner’s association requirements before beginning a building project. Ensure that your contractor has obtained the proper permits before construction begins.


Aging in Place
Once you’ve constructed your dream home, you’ll probably plan to live there for years, if not decades. Aging in place refers to the ability to remain in one’s home into old age. Features such as wide hallways and doorways and a lack of stairs or stairs that can accommodate an automatic lift make it easier to make necessary modifications to your home as you grow older. Proximity to public transportation and other amenities also makes aging in place possible.

Designing a Better Kitchen

Installing a new kitchen ranks as one of the most popular home remodeling tasks, and it’s easy to understand why. Choosing high-end appliances and custom cabinetry is exciting. However, in the emphasis on designing a visually appealing space, many people forget these five essential elements of kitchen design:  


  • The Kitchen Triangle

Many people consider the kitchen to be the heart of the home. It’s where food is prepared and, in many instances, where meals are eaten. The shape of your kitchen is less important than adhering to the principle of the kitchen triangle. The sink, refrigerator and cook top should form a triangle with no more than six feet between each element. Conforming to the kitchen triangle produces the most efficient arrangement possible for food preparation and serving.  



  • Sufficient Storage

Your kitchen should also include enough storage to accommodate small appliances, dishes and food. This may mean including extra cabinets for pots and pans, installing a pantry for food or extra countertop space for appliances like mixers and coffee makers. Consider future needs as well as present usage in planning for kitchen storage. If you’re not sure, it’s better to err on the side of more storage rather than less. Custom cabinetry is more expensive but may be a better choice in the long run because it uses space more efficiently.



  • It’s Electric

Back in the day, the only kitchen appliances that required electricity were a toaster and perhaps a coffee pot. Today, microwave ovens, blenders, crock pots and electric knives all compete for electric outlet space with coffee makers and toaster ovens. Ensure that your kitchen contains enough electrical outlets to accommodate all your appliances. You should also ensure the circuits that serve kitchen outlets can handle the electrical load.



  • Taking Out the Trash

No one likes to think about trash. However, planning a space for proper storage of trash and recycling receptacles is essential to maintaining a sanitary kitchen environment. Trash and recycling receptacles should be easy to access and store out of sight. If you plan to compost your organic trash, the composting receptacle should also be close to the kitchen but far enough away to prevent unpleasant odors from drifting in.



  • Proper lighting

Proper lighting is frequently overlooked in kitchen design. However, task lighting is a necessity over kitchen workspaces such as the stove, countertops and the sink. Proper kitchen lighting should fall in front rather than behind so that you can see what you’re doing while prepping food, cooking or washing up after a meal.


Considering these five essential elements will ensure that your kitchen is functional as well as beautiful.

Five Things to Consider When Creating an Outdoor Living Space

A well-designed outdoor space can be a major factor in making a house into a home. Mindful planning is as important in designing outdoor living spaces as indoor living spaces. Consider these five points when considering the design of your outdoor living space:


  • Purpose for the Space
    The first and perhaps most important consideration is determining precisely how you wish to use your outdoor space. Are you planning a patio or a garden? Do you want green space for pets or children to play? Knowing what purpose your outdoor space is intended to serve will shape nearly every other aspect of planning and executing the design.


  • Desired Amenities
    It’s one thing to purchase patio furniture and a charcoal grill for your back yard. It’s another thing entirely to install a hot tub or a complete outdoor kitchen with wet bar and sound system. In the latter case, adding a water line, plumbing, gas and electric infrastructure will also be needed, adding significantly to the timeline, not to mention the budget.


  • Challenges of the Space
    Every outdoor space presents at least some challenges. Common challenges include drainage issues, close proximity to neighbors or extensive exposure to direct sunlight and glare. Dealing with these challenges may necessitate alterations to the design of your outdoor space.

    For instance, correcting drainage issues requires proper grading and perhaps adding ground cover to prevent standing water or even flooding from ruining your outdoor space. Exposure to wind and sun requires arranging some sort of shelter, either from a canopy or from strategically planted greenery. If your outdoor space is simply too small to accommodate everything you want, this is the time to determine your must-haves and how to accommodate them. Scaled-down outdoor furnishings (in size and amount) prevent small spaces from being overwhelmed.


  • Integration with Your Overall Outdoor Space
    Ideally, your outdoor living space should also tie in with the rest of your yard as well as the overall design of your home. If your home is a classic bungalow and your back yard includes a flower garden, an outdoor living area with a stark, modernist design will look out of place.


  • Should You Call a Pro?
    Calling in a professional landscape designer is highly advisable, especially if you are planning an elaborate outdoor space. He or she can evaluate your outdoor space and determine if your desired plans are realistic. A professional can also determine whether preliminary infrastructure work such as the installation of plumbing or a gas line is needed. A pro can also make suggestions to deal with challenges such as drainage issues or overly close proximity to neighbors.

Considering these five factors can ensure that your outdoor living space is truly an area that you can enjoy along with friends and family.

Designing a Home Library

If you are a book lover, you probably have a large book collection. A home library is an ideal solution not only for housing and displaying your books but also for providing a retreat for you to enjoy reading them. A home library can also be a cozy spot for visiting with guests. Careful planning can ensure that your home library is both functional and comfortable. In designing a home library, there are five essential elements to consider: location, storage and shelving, lighting, layout and whether the library will be a dedicated space or shared with a home office.

Location, Location, Location

A home library need not be large, but there should be sufficient space to house your books along with comfortable seating and lighting. While a separate room is ideal, a secluded corner of another living space will also suffice as a home library. The library should be located away from heavily trafficked areas and, of course, quiet enough for reading.

Storage and Shelving

The shelving you choose for your home library should allow for easy access to your books and be sturdy enough to hold their weight. Avoid shelving that is overly deep. Wood or wood-look shelves provide a classic look to your home library, but metal or even plastic shelving can give a home library a sleek, modern look. If you own your home, consider anchoring shelving to the wall for added stability, especially if your shelves are high. Consider obtaining a stepladder to make reaching high shelves easier.

You’ll also want to allow room for at least one chair and perhaps a footstool. If your home library is not a dedicated space, you may need to consider other types of storage in addition to shelving, such as a chest. If your library will also serve as a home office, you’ll need to allow room for a desk, chair and perhaps an additional chair.

Proper Lighting

Proper lighting is essential for a home library. There should be at least one light for every seating area. If your library shares space with a home office, provide additional lighting for working at the desk or computer. Avoid overhead lighting.

Furniture Layout

If you intend for your library to serve as a solo retreat, perhaps a single favorite chair plus footrest is all the furniture you’ll need. If you will share your library with other members of your household, you will need an additional chair or two. Space seating sufficiently so that everyone sharing the room can read quietly without feeling crowded. If the home library shares space with a home office, ideally the desk should be placed on an opposite wall. The flow of the furniture should allow easy access in and out of the library as well as access to the books.

Shared or Dedicated Space?

Many home libraries serve a dual purpose as home offices or as sitting rooms. If your library shares space with a home office, choose a room that is large enough to accommodate bookshelves, seating, lighting, a desk and chairs, plus wiring and outlet for computers, printers and other hardware. This may also require scaling down furniture size in smaller rooms to ensure that everything fits.

5 Things to Consider Before Your Renovation

If you’re a fan of TV home renovation shows, you know that remodeling a home can be a major undertaking. However, renovation is also the ideal way to ensure that your new home is exactly what you want. If you’ve found that not-quite-perfect home, consider the following five factors before making the final decision to take on a large-scale renovation:

  • Determine What You Want
    It’s essential to know what you want before you begin the renovation process. That includes determining your absolute must-haves along with the overall end goal. Be specific. If the renovation includes new flooring, determine whether you want hardwood, carpeting or tile. Does the master bathroom need a double sink vanity and a soaker tub? Knowing precisely what the renovation should include allows you to plan other essential aspects, including creating a timeline, obtaining necessary permits and ordering supplies.


  • Set a Realistic Budget (and Stick to It)
    It’s difficult to imagine a worse scenario than a renovation that is halted midway due to lack of funds. Setting a realistic budget and sticking to it is essential. This is the only way to ensure that you’ll actually be able to complete the renovation that you’ve started.


  • Choose the Right Contractor
    The best renovation plans can be thrown completely into chaos by choosing the wrong contractor. Before you sign an agreement with a contractor, sit down and talk with him or her about your goals and project. Determine whether the contractor considers it feasible to complete what you want with your budget. Ask about previous work and check references. If the contractor balks on any of these items, run—do not walk—in the opposite direction.


  • Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
    Depending on the scope of the renovation project, your household routine could be disrupted for weeks, even months. Asking your contractor about the details of the renovation can determine whether you can live through the process or if renting a hotel room (or bunking with friends or relatives) is called for. You’ll also want to determine whether the design plans will actually meet your needs.


  • Be a Hands-On Client
    It’s true that the contractor is the professional and he or she is paid to do the job. You don’t want to get in the way. However, it is your house and your money. It’s your right (and your obligation) to stay involved throughout the project to determine if there are problems with the budget or if the schedule is still on track. Reputable contractors will welcome your input to ensure that the results will meet your needs and expectations.

Keeping these five points in mind will help you make the best choice when it comes to renovating your home!

13 Tips To Adopt A Greener Way Of Life

When it comes to going green, people are finding that little changes in their homes and daily routines can have large positive benefits on the environment. Here are 13 tips you can implement in your own home today.

Collect the Excess Water When Washing Produce: Most of us have a habit of running the tap for long periods of time when washing fruits and vegetables. Instead of having all that water go down the drain, wash fruits in a colander that sits on the rim of a large pot or container. As you wash the produce, you can collect the dirty water and use it to water plants in and around the house.

Use pantry products as cleaners: White distilled vinegar, baking soda, and essential natural oils can be used as cleaning products for your furniture, counters and appliances. They’re both effective cleaners and safer for the environment.

Use less water in major appliances: You will use less water if you wash full loads of dishes in the dishwasher and full loads of dirty clothes in the washing machine. Also, wash laundry in cold water to save on heating energy.

Organize small objects with recycled glass jars and plastic containers: Jars, butter tubs and mayonnaise containers can be cleaned out and reused to hold small items around the house such as nuts, screws, bolts, marbles, coins, paper clips, and a range of other items.

Collect rainwater: Collecting rainwater to use for watering house plants, outdoor gardens and patio plants can significantly decrease water usage during drier months.

Insulate water heaters to save energy: Insulation blankets can be wrapped around your water heater to save on energy. This method allows the water to stay warm for longer periods, which means that your water heater will run less and use less energy.

Install high-efficiency low-flow faucets, showerheads and toilets: Newer high-efficiency taps, toilets and showerheads are designed to conserve more water than the older models, while also providing good water pressure.

Use power strips to save energy: Plug appliances and electronics that don’t need to be on all the time into power strips. Turn off the power strip when you’re not using them to lessen electrical usage.

Swap and donate items: Most clothing, appliances and furniture items don’t have to go to a landfill. There are many places where you can swap items with someone else or donate gently used items to be re-purposed or used by someone new.

Switch to CFL or LED lighting: Lessen energy costs by using more energy efficient lighting options.

Install dimmer switches and timers throughout the home: Dimmer switches are ideal in your home as you can lessen the amount of electricity you use when you don’t need a bright light. Timers are another great way to save on energy usage and utilize daylight to its fullest potential throughout the year.

Reuse old shower curtains: Old shower curtains make great drop cloths when you are painting or need to prevent messes.

Support Your Shoes with Recycled Magazines: The upper part of knee-high leather boots can become floppy with age, creating unwanted creasing or cracks in the leather. Instead of throwing out old magazines, roll them up and place them into the boots to help maintain their shape.

Making just a few simple changes around your house can lead to an overall greener lifestyle.